Category Archives: Justice

Greatest Muslim nation on earth wonders what happens; Christianity grows like never before!

Indonesia, a nation with over 215 million Muslim believers that total 13% of the total Muslim world population is in for a surprise! Unprecedented growth among Christians with an Evangelical and Pentecostal identity puzzles the nation. In Indonesia it is a disgrace and a dangerous act to convert to Christianity from a Muslim background. People who are converts are experiencing different kinds of persecution within the extended family, but also within society.  Exact figures are hard to gather but a recent report estimates that 10% of Indonesians are Christians. A figure many Christian leaders believe is too low.

Some interesting facts?

  • In the early 1960s there were no Evangelical churches in Temanggung, where the soccer-field revival took place; now there are more than 40.
  • In the capital Jakarta, newly built mega churches send steeples into the sky
  • Other Christians worship at unofficial churches based in hotels and malls, where Sunday services rival shopping as a popular weekend activity
  • Asia’s tallest statue of Jesus Christ, built in 2007, presides over Manado city in eastern Indonesia, while Indonesian cable TV beams 24-hour Christian channels.

Time magazine reports: “What is it about Evangelical Christianity that has so resonated in Indonesia? As in many other crowded, developing-world countries where a person can feel lost in a teeming slum, the concept of individual salvation is a powerful one. At the same time, the attempted hijacking of Muslim theology by a small band of homegrown terrorists who have killed hundreds of Indonesians in recent years has led some to question their nation’s majority faith. So, too, has the general trend toward a more conservative Islam that has given rise to hundreds of religiously inspired bylaws, from caning for beer-drinking to enforced dress codes for women. Not everyone, though, is celebrating Christianity’s boom. Some Muslims view the faith as an unwanted foreign influence, even though Islam, too, is an imported religion”.

I am excited about this recent development and it gives hope to us who have not been part of such sweeping moves of God in our nations. If God can do it in strongholds of Islam, He can AND will move here as well!

John

Report: Christianity Growing in Indonesia – World – CBN News – Christian News 24-7 – CBN.com.

Yet another woman caught between West and Islam!

This morning I was watching the film “Women on the border to West(ern societies – free translation of me) a film from Dilsa Demirbag-Sten on the PLAY Axess TV channel, via the web. Among the ones whose situation was addressed was Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a woman whose viewpoints I recently wrote about (here). The reason for showing this movie on Axess was the newly released book by Dilsa called “The Fatherland – Fosterland”.

Dilsa Demirbag Sten born 10 October 1969, is from Kurdish background and was born in southeastern Turkey. In 1976 she came to Sweden and was raised here. She is an author and freelance journalist. At early age she was “given” to be engaged against her will but broke the engagement and escaped a forced marriage. She moved to Stockholm, where she worked for the National Theatre, Amnesty International and became advisor to Minister for Integration, Leif Blomberg. She has committed to the fight against the oppression of women and honor related violence. Demirbag-Stone is a liberal and Islam critic. She is involved in the atheistic Humanist Association and claims to work for a secular, democratic and equal society.

I appreciate her fight against Islam fundamentalism and the way women and girls are abused within that system. The film is an eye-opener which should be “compulsory viewing” for every politician and people working within areas of social welfare and integration.

While I was still reviewing some of the pictures and stories in my mind, I met an older woman in Tensta this morning. She also was born in Turkey, like Dilsa. However, she was born in an Orthodox Christian tradition. “Pray for us” she told me, “because it is so hard for us here in Tensta as Muslims take over more and more. You Western people have no idea how they think and how they do… we have some experience from that back home; that’s why we are here. Now the same thing is going to happen here!” (For the reader; an Arabic prince Adbul Aziz Ben Fadh, son to Saudi Arabians former king Fadhwants wants to build a mosque in this part of the city by donating 400 million Swedish kronor, (60 million dollars). The prince already helped to built mosques in Los Angeles and Edinburgh.

When will we learn and when will we listen? This older Turkish woman’s cry for help (and prayer) was resembling the cry of thousands of unheard voices of women (and men) who are entangled in the web of exclusion of Muslim faith and control, removing more and more people into isolation and segregation.

That’s the Way I experienced it…

John

No crucifix – but burka is Okay! Religious discrimination in politically (un)-correct England.

BBC news tells us that a Christian nurse Shirley Chaplin from Exeter lost a discrimination claim against her employers and is moved to a desk job after refusing to remove her crucifix at work, which she had been carrying for over 30 years!

While at the same time other employed people can wear a burka within the health care, Shirley has to remove her religious symbol because of health issues. That’s how far the corrosion of foundational values and praxis can go in our so-called Christian nations. The overwhelming pressure in the West to try to appease and please every person’s right in regard to freedom of press, speech and religion creates over-sensitivity towards people from other cultures and religions while rejecting our own roots (almost like a false guilt trip).  If a decision like this would have been made in the context of a Muslim believer or for that sake any other (non-Christian) person, it would have caused a landslide of reactions and demonstrations causing a reversal of the decision. But, since this is only one of those “weirdo’s” uh, Christians, it is acceptable and only right to do so… or?

What do you think about this?

John

Liberalism, – Legalism versus Obedience

Leonard Ravenhill once said: “When there’s something in the Bible that churches don’t like, they call it ‘legalism.'” I have been stunned, as I have realized the degree of liberalism, which has entered our churches in the recent years. Actually one should never get stunned over anything because the depth of the falleness of humankind and our willingness to compromise are closely connected to our deep yearning for comfort and affirmation.

When we find our beliefs and praxis too far removed from what is acceptable and passable in the world around us (or should I say politically correct?), we are tempted to remove our convictions to the fringes of daily life, where they soon are intertwined with non-essentials, leaving only an empty shell of what once was core fruit of existence!

Ravenhill’s observation is like a prophetic voice going against the stream of a Christianity, which has removed the cross from its very center. Jesus once said: “I will call you friends if you do what I command (tell you)”. You want to be liberated? Obey Him and do what He tells you to without asking “why?”!

That’s the Way I see it!

John

Vårdnadsbidrag; conviction, trap or reaction?

The daily Christian paper Dagen and other media (here and here) write about how many parents use the special financial support of 3000 kronor which they can receive during a three year period if they take responsibility and care for their children instead of enrolling them in a pre-school.

There are big differences between the different districts in the greater Stockholm area. As my wife and I raised our children we wanted to remain at home as long as possible with them because of conviction; we wanted to give personal input and time for our children. This time we would never be able to give again in the same way in the latter stages of their lives. Svenska Dagbladet describes the Jenemark family which has a similar approach as ours. In the Stockholm area 7% of the parents have chosen for this opportunity.

vårdnadsbidrag

The findings also show that in the inner-city area of Stockholm many parents have decided to use this chance, I have to add though that for many people “living in the inner-city implies having a good income”. Many of the inner-city dwellers are high-educated, well paid professionals. They have the possibility and extra resources to make ends meet based on one (higher) salary and the 3000 kronor extra. Many others, middle class families, who might want to use this possibility, will not be able to make ends meet since they might have lower salaries.

The same research shows however that in the (poorer) suburbs many parents take the opportunity which is offered. As I spoke the other day with a person responsible in one of the mentioned suburbs this issue came up.

  • After out talk I considered this issue and realized that many especially Muslim families use this as an opportunity to maintain their traditional / cultural lifestyle where the mother remains home with the children. I find this also to be true among (conscious) Christian families who want to spend more time with their children. However, there is more to it than the eye can see… among the immigrant (Muslim) families it is not the traditional women-trap (as different political parties might call it), there is the segregation trap where women are kept away from society and thus from culture and language learning which enhances the element of isolation.
  • Another element that I consider is that of the strongly secularized (anti-belief) attitude which we find in our schooling system which is a threat to traditional values that many of our immigrants carry with them out of conviction or cultural background. Thus leading them to react against “the way of doing things in Sweden”, pushing them in a fundamental role and position.
  • This is one of the elements that influence the growth of- and return to fundamentalism; the threat of secularism pushes them into the opposite direction further than they have ever experienced before!

That’s the Way I see it!

John van Dinther

A move of God in Iran?!

There is a move of God in Iran according to CBN. While in TEHRAN pro-democracy protests continue, close to 20 protesters are killed. Numerous have been imprisoned yet thousands continue to challenge the regime as they flood the streets in their fight for democracy. The promised utopia Muslim state has failed to appear and has not been able to appease the population… Now, almost unnoticed a new force has moved in; the Islamic regime is finding it’s incapable of reversing the rapid spread of Christianity there.

CBN writes:  “Christian praise songs blast from the cassette player of an Iranian taxi cab. The driver is a Muslim convert to Christianity. Despite risk of arrest and possible death for apostasy, he’s unafraid to share his faith. A cross hangs from his rearview mirror. He keeps his bible on the front passenger seat beside a can of STP gas treatment.  He shares the gospel with his passengers and gives them a bible if they want one. That alone could lead to his arrest.”

Good news in the midst of a dark periode in the lives of people who have gone through so much!

May the Lord show His mercy over the land and its inhabitants!

John

What have same sex relationships and kleptomania to do with each other?

There are so many different opinions and interpretations about the present theological “hot potatoes’ that one easily looses one’s way in its jungle. (Here, here, here, here and here… People question the way I relate to Scriptures where the Apostle Paul writes about homosexuality. Their statement is: “What did the apostle Paul really know about same-sex relations? There are so many new things that we have learned since New Testament times about the complexities of sexuality!”

They make a good point. By the Way: after having allowed myself a “slumbering blog state” for a number of months (it was hard to find time to write and express my deepest feelings), I am encouraged by different people to NOT GIVE UP writing blogs. I feel that the discussion on same sex relationships needs yet another perspective and I am motivated to use this occasion as a re-entry to the blog sphere.

“They make a good point”, I stated earlier. It is true that since the writings of the New Testament many more things have become clear to us; the (dark) wrestles of life and our soul have been brought to the surface and have been examined, analyzed, evaluated, and explained like never before.

I know that not everything we need to know about sex is right there on the pages of the Bible. Many authors who have written about sex and who researched sex had an awful lot of good things to say. Yet, I dare say that the Bible is my only and supreme authority on the subject of sex.

With that I don’t mean that it is our only source on the subject. There is a whole lot to learn from tradition, experience, and reason (including scientific investigation). But these latter mentioned sources are not authoritative. While they can provide important information and insights, it is clear to me that what the Bible is actually teaching us on a given subject supersedes all other sources. Again, we know more about sex in general, and about same-sex relations in particular, than the Apostle Paul did. It would be unwise to ignore what we can learn, there is a whole lot to learn from what people tell us about the experience of same-sex attractions, and what scientific investigation tells us about the complex issues of attraction and sexuality. All different aspects of humankind as expressed through our genes, cultures, social circumstances and theological insights need to be brought together to help us understand the question at hand. But yet… how do I dare to say that the Bible supersedes all of our insights by speaking with authority to a subject like sexuality?

Well, here we finally come in on the subject of kleptomania…It is at this point that a parallel can be drawn to sexuality. The majority of the people living in the world today have probably a greater insight and knowledge about stealing than Moses ever had. In the Ten Commandments a simple and straightforward commandment is given: “You shall not steal!”

There is really no nuance nor is any explanation given about the way this should (could) be considered. There are no links to praxis, history, experiences or principles. You shall not steal. That’s it. Don’t steal; IT IS WRONG!

During my years as pastor in New Life Church Stockholm (www.newlife.nu) I have had to deal with some people who were compulsive thieves. When meeting with them, one thing they told me was the fact that they could not help doing it… they stole things that were of no interest or value to them, and yet, time after time they stole even if it meant that their relationships and trust with other people and friends got broken. The surge to steal was like a beast within them they could not handle.

In regards to this matter, there are major drives and issues which drive people into such destructive behavior. There are psychological, social and other issues involved… YET, time after time again I had to come back in my conversations with them to that same statement, or commandment: You shall not steal!

That statement did not give me room for interpretation, or nuances. It did not give room to wiggle. It was one of those “one liners”, almost too clear, too obvious… It was unnegotionable. A cold fact… You shall not steal. No explanation, no excuses. Although much reasoning and information could be brought into the matter, only one thing remained the same: “You shall not steal!”

The point I want to make is the following: when it comes to the basics, what is right and what is wrong; the Bible supersedes all other sources. It is our authoritative guide on ethical issues. Of course we will have to consider where the rubber hits the road; that’s in the praxis in our pastoral dimension. I know there are people who steal because they have nothing to eat, others because they have a responsibility for their families. Others because they have been abused and victimized by greedy economic systems (I will in the near future write more about greed and such systems). But no matter what we can give as explanation for our actions, stealing was, is and remains wrong!

In some occasions we choose to forgive and forget, in other occasions we counsel, yet in others we send people to jail. But no matter what the cause and circumstances might be the basics are: It is wrong to steal! In the discussion on the so-called “sin catalogues” which were used by Christians and churches 30-60 years ago we have heard time after time again how insensitive the Church has been. OK! Many leaders have crawled to the cross a number of time and affirmed their guilt in these matters… But we have to realize that the large majority of the people using “the sin catalogue arguments” have not received the kind of insensitive treatment they are relating to. It’s “hear-say” in most occasions. The Church, because of its historical guilt complex has gone the opposite direction and has allowed everything without nuances as an appeasement to the guilt memory.

In days past, conservative Christians have often done a terrible job in dealing with the complexities and nuances of human sexuality. But no matter what these complexities and nuances might be… the fact remains the same: the word of God remains true and it supersedes all other sources, whether they are endorsed or not by our society or ideologies. I might be politically incorrect but I will continue to follow His Word and Truth as a basic authority yet, with a heart open to be touched to be able understand the complexities people experience.

That’s the Way I see it!

John van Dinther